Declaration of Independence was declaration of dependence
by Nelson Price
July 05, 2014 10:35 PM | 1807 views | 7 7 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Our nation’s Declaration of Independence is so infused with a biblical world view that proponents of our current secular world view resent it even being read, much less taught in public schools.

Help in understanding the meaning of some terms in the Declaration can be gained from a source in use then and now by our Supreme Court regarding issues of the time of our founding: “Blackstone’s Commentaries.”

Many of the founders were educated by clergy and schooled in Scripture. This, coupled with Blackstone, helps interpret the source and meaning of many phrases in the Declaration.

In recent years, one phrase frequently attacked by secularists in times of selecting Supreme Court Jurists is “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” Blackstone had defined it as “... the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the Creator himself in all his dispositions, conforms.”

Blackstone further clarified this by noting “the law of nature” as being the expression of God’s will for all of creation.

This statement in the Declaration, “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” is rooted in Scripture passages in Isaiah 40: 28; I Peter 4:19; and Genesis 1: 1, 27.

Jefferson in an early draft used the word “derived,” but Benjamin Franklin and John Adams replaced it with “endowed by their Creator,” thus stressing our rights are God-given, not accorded by government. Careful observation shows rights are “endowed” by God and government is “instituted among men.” The institution was intended to perpetuate the endowment.

The framers of the Declaration incorporated evidence in the document they were seeking God’s favor in these terms. “We, therefore the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions ... And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Had a majority of the signers been deists, they could not and would not have referred to God as “the Supreme Judge.” Deists believe there is a god, but he has been indifferent and inactive in the world since creation.

Other internal evidence the predominant belief among the framers was not deism is their reference to “Divine Providence.” At the time of its use the term was a linchpin of Christian teaching meaning God was the ever-active, moment-by-moment governor of the universe, the exact opposite of deism. They knew what they were saying when they used the expression.

Three documents are considered foundational to the emergence of America: The Declaration of Independence (1776), the Articles of Confederation (1781) and the Constitution (1789). There were 118 different signers accounting for 143 signatures. Of them, 54 percent were Episcopalian/Anglican, 18 percent Presbyterian, 17 percent Congregationalist, 4.3 percent Quaker and seven other denominations counted for the rest.

Their Declaration of Independence was a declaration of dependence. They knew what Franklin meant when he said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” It meant we must remain united and stand by one another or be executed independently. They needed a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, otherwise known as the Supreme Judge, Nature’s God, the Creator.

The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.

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Poor Buck
July 09, 2014
Buckner, a man so blinded by his own ignorance that he cannot see the obvious in front of his face.

Hey Buck, here is an assignment for you, so that you will sound a bit less ignorant in the future. Attend a "religious" service somewhere, then study about Christ from the King James Bible. Hint: In no way are the previous two suggestions related or alike in any way.

If you are capable of an open mind, you might just start seeing some light, and you might even cease your sadly mistaken view of the Founding Fathers and the U.S. Constitution.

EM Buckner
July 10, 2014
I've done both. If you're suggesting that modern Christians, at least those in "mainstream" churches, don't really follow the KJ Bible, I'd agree. But if you're suggesting that the founding fathers really wanted a "Christian" nation, it's you that's "sadly mistaken." In any case, if you disagree with me, please do say what you think makes this a Christian nation.
Happy Accident
July 07, 2014
Church leaders want to venture into politics? Very well, let's start taxing the churches.
EM Buckner
July 08, 2014
Good idea, H.A.--or at least requiring them to account for their income and outgo, as every other kind of non-profit 501-c-3 must do (no accountability for religious orgs--a huge advantage for them and a temptation for many of them to abuse tax-free funding.
EM Buckner
July 06, 2014
Declaration of Independence was a Declaration of Dependence--but not on the god Nelson Price claims

Dear Editor:

Nelson Price ("Declaration of Independence was declaration of dependence," Marietta Daily Journal, 6 July 2014 CE) makes some interesting points, but he exaggerates one of his claims absurdly and ignores a much more important idea.

He is correct that those who identify the religious references in the Declaration of Independence as strictly deistic overstate their case--but then he swings wildly too far in the "Christian nation" direction. Many of the signers were indeed Christian, but all of them were in direct contradiction to biblical Christianity. Most notably a well known New Testament source, Romans 13:1-3*, makes it unmistakably clear that rebelling against an established government, especially against a Christian king, explicitly violates God's will and will be divinely punished. Whole books have been devoted to this subject*--we analyzed it at length in our own book--but Price significantly misrepresents the consensus, which is that the Declaration was imbued with ceremonial deism.

The more important point that he ignores is the fact that the Declaration, while important to Americans and freedom lovers world-wide, is not our governing charter. As he noted, the U.S. Constitution was agreed to a full 13 years after the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution includes not even a ceremonial bow to any god, Christian or deistic. Nor does it incorporate even one idea of any importance that can be traced to Christianity or the Bible. The signers of the Declaration did indeed declare that they depended on each other. With the Constitution, the transformation to a god-free government was complete, with there no longer being any doubt as to the sole source of governmental authority: "We the People." Religious freedom was quite important to the founders and they understood that to protect liberty, government must stand aside from religion.

And that's worth celebrating by all Americans, religious or irreligious.


ED BUCKNER, Author, with MICHAEL E. BUCKNER, In Freedom We Trust: An Atheist Guide to Religious Liberty (Prometheus Books, 2012)

Ed lives in Smyrna

*Asides to editor:

1. Text of the biblical passage:

Submission to Governing Authorities

Romans 13: 1-3 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.

2. An example has just been published. Our Declaration, by Danielle Allen (Liveright Publishing) was reviewed in today's NY Times:

Bob Johnson
July 06, 2014
The assumption that all Deists do not believe that God/The Supreme Intelligence never intervenes in human affairs is false. It is probably based on the definition of Deist/Deism by the Christian fundamentalist Noah Webster. This definition is false. Since there is no man-made dogma in Deism, Deists are free to make up their own minds on questions like God's intervention in human affairs, an afterlife, judgment, etc. I'm a Deist and I know a lot of other Deists and we all have our own opinions on these matters. And it is only an opinion even if it's made into dogma and doctrine.

To get a solid understanding of Deism I recommend you read The Age of Reason, The Complete Edition by the American founder and Deist Thomas Paine.
EM Buckner
July 08, 2014
Paine's "Age of Reason" is well worth reading even if you're not trying to learn more about deism. And it's worth remembering that Paine was a key intellectual leader in American revolutionary times--not only did he inspire Washington's troops with "Common Sense," he is also credited with coming up with a name for the new nation: "The United States of America." Well said, Bob Johnson.
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